A few weeks ago I noticed Peabody and Tartelette were holding a donut event called- Time to make the Doughnuts. Doughnuts usually have yeast and since yeast and I are not really very well aquainted, (that is one of my resolutions this year though- to end the fear of yeast!), I figured I really did not have much to contribute. But then, the March issue of Bon Apettit arrived and it changed everything. I saw a recipe for Brandied Apricot Beignets- I altered it a little by adding more fruit and brandy, not serving them with chocolate sauce and instead showering the golden little fritters with lots of powdered sugar. They turned out delicious, Jack proclaimed I was the best mom ever- after eating about 5 of them. (yup- ever!)
The beignets are not the traditional French variety- you know, the ones that require yeast; instead they have a choux paste as the base for the dough. They remind me of the Bunuelos of my childhood which were drizzled with an orange flower infused honey syrup. The recipe came together quickly, next time I will probably double it though because it only yielded 12 beignets, half of which were gone before I took the first photo.
If you have a fryer, by all means use it for the frying, I used a heavy pot with a clip-on thermometer and constantly adjusted the heat to keep the temperature where it needed to be. If the oil is too hot the beignets will brown very quickly and not cook all the way through; while if the oil is too cool, the beignets will be greasy. The beignets will start out like a dense little dough ball, then as they cook they will expand and puff. A good beignet should have a hollow inside. I fried one beignet by itself to test things out and I pulled it out too early, it was browned on the outside, but had not puffed and the inside was still doughy and raw. For the rest of them, I watched the thermometer very closely and let them fry until they were puffed and golden brown. Keep a pan lined with paper towels in a warm (200 F) oven to keep the beignets warm. The choux paste can be made ahead of time and kept at room temperature up to 4 hours.
Brandied Apricot Beignets
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
vegetable oil for frying (at least 4 cups)
1. Bring apricots, sugar, 1/4 cup water and brandy to a boil in a maduim saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep, covered for 30 minutes. Drain the apricots and set aside.
2. In a medium heavy sauce-pan over high heat combine 1/2 cup water, butter and milk and bring to a boil. Stir until the butter melts, then remove from heat. Add flour; stir briskly until dough gathers into a ball. Reduce heat to medium and place pan back on heat. Stir constantly until a film forms on the bottom of the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cool for 5 minutes.
3. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat in eggs one at a time. Add apricots and beat to combine.
4. Preheat oven to 200F. Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.
5. Pour oil in a large deep saucepan to a depth of 1-1/2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot. Heat oil to 330-340 F. Working in batches, drop 5 rounded spoonfuls of dough (I use a small ice cream scoop). Cook beignets until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain correct temperature.(specially after each addition) Turn the beignets after a couple of minutes, they should fry for about 8 minutes total and be golden and puffed. Using a slotted spoon, trandfer to baking sheet in oven and keep warm while you fry the rest.
6. Serve generously sprinkled with powdered sugar.